"Terrorism" as Orwelliana
A retrospective on terrorism in the U.S. and its deeper function and meaning
Since 9-11, U.S. citizens have been conditioned to think of political terrorism as the ultimate evil, comparable to and contiguous with genocide. As with any paradigm shift, we have difficulty remembering that terrorism was once treated very differently by U.S. government and media. Or rather, not treated. Not so long ago, terrorism was strategically omitted from news coverage and the latest fashion in political fear-mongering. Since politicians instinctively understand the value of fear-mongering and don't usually miss opportunities, their 15+ years of sustained obliviousness in this case is quite interesting.
Back in the late 1960s, '70s, and early '80s -- the "heyday" of terrorism in the U.S. -- bombings and so on happened almost weekly. Absorb that for a minute. Go to the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism website ( http://tinyurl.com/9covf )and confirm it for yourself.
Far and away the biggest players were the CIA's Cuban exile henchmen and Rabbi Meir Kahane's Jewish Defense League, both of which had strikingly similar profiles: both operated on U.S. soil with virtual impunity; both had access to U.S. military ordnance and built bombs with an expertise indicative of military/intelligence training (quite a few of their members are known to have recieved such training); both maintained very sophisticated worldwide terror operations, sneaking explosives into most any country and bombing targets with state-of-the-art security while almost never getting caught; both concentrated their bombings on "communist" diplomatic and business targets, typically in the middle of the night.
All this spells support from a Western government or governments, with that 'middle of the night' bit reflecting an apparent rule that their terror campaigns were to be about harassment and coercion, not killing. Only when they went rogue by violating this rule did they get in trouble -- not for any moral consideration, but because killings messed up the whole program, which was using psy-ops to get certain desired results. Reprisal killings of your own diplomats, spooks, etc., is not a desired result.
Even when these "terrorists" (freelance intel assets) got busted for stepping over this line, the punishments were clearly rebukes, not firings. After all, real talent is hard to find. The charges brought were laughable, exonerations on technical grounds were given undue consideration, and when sentences were handed down they were often light or waived altogether. Essentially and obviously, judges and juries were handed their marching orders by a U.S. intel Gestapo they had enough sense to fear. Gag orders, "national security" interventions, and grantings of immunity were commonplace. Media attention was spotty at best. After the "punishment" had served its purpose -- slapping the crazies around until they stopped foaming at the mouth and swore to behave -- they were let out to go do their thing again with full impunity.
Those who find all this implausible should give it some fresh thought in light of 1) the classic cat-and-mouse games spooks have always played with each other and 2) P-L-A-U-S-I-B-L-E _ D-E-N-I-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y. If you wanna harass another country's diplomatic missions on home soil and yet not get pestered by certain U.S. citizen-cattle who imagine they live in a democracy, "underground terrorists" are very handy to have around. No one who's seriously studied CIA dirty tricks will fail to recognize this logic.
Since the mid-'80s everything about the presentation of terrorism has changed radically. It's become the constant theme of government and media fear-mongering (analogous to communism in the '70s...), and terrorists are now targets of the most draconian "no-tolerance policy" in memory, basically treated as foreign spies, regardless of nationality. Even U.S. citizens are therefore placed outside constitutionally-mandated norms of U.S. criminal law.
While this may look like a 180-degree reversal, it's really not. The common thread between the two treatments is that each in its own way served or serves the U.S. Empire's overall agenda, especially as it relates to foreign policy. The kind of domestic terrorism seen in the 1970's -- i.e. harassment of "communists" and "sympathizers" on U.S. soil -- was a useful instrument of that policy and almost undoubtedly a deliberate one, so there was a clear motive to deflect attention away from it, especially from the idea it was "a menace that must be dealt with." Since then radical leftist, environmental, anti-U.S.-Empire, and anti-government political undergrounds have followed in the CIA's goon footsteps. In several cases, e.g. the Aryan Nations, the transition probably reveals more psy-operatives going rogue.
In short, terrorism on U.S. soil has gone from serving the status quo to threatening it, and it is this that has changed everything about its presentation.
An identical pattern unfolded decades earlier in Israel, where zionist undergrounds used terrorism heavily in the '40s and were subsequently rewarded with statehood, or in individual cases with elite political / military careers. Since Israel is an instrument of Western imperial expansion in the Middle East, this criminality served Western elite interests and therefore merited neither comment nor censure, then or now. Zionist terrorism in fact never subsided, but was absorbed into the routine functions of the Israeli state. For zionism's Arab opponents, the lesson of this has been that terrorism and lawlessness actually work.
Hell, they do work: it's how ruling elites always get their way when the people dig their heels in. This is a self-evident lesson of history. What sets sets the effective "legitimate" operations apart from the flops is the use of true standing militaries equipped with modern armaments -- the most formidable terrorist forces in existence. Such methods only become the stuff of villainous bogeyman when the ruling mafia's opponents resort to them. Otherwise they're called "warfare," carried out on an industrial scale, and represented as heroic.
From the 1940s to the '70s, as Middle East terrorism went from an asset to a liability in this context, it rather abruptly became "a problem" worthy of focused attention. This reformulation has been repeated exactly in the United States from the '70s to the present, and for precisely the same reasons.
The Empire's foreign agenda is not the only beneficiary; its domestic economic agenda is at stake as well. It is for this reason that attention to the "terrorism problem" has refocussed on "eco-terrorism," which infringes on the wellspring of private wealth known as "resource extraction." Meanwhile when equivalent (or much worse) actions serve private wealth they are not commented on.
The Hayman fire of 2002, for example -- the worst forest fire in Colorado state history -- was started by Terry Lynn Barton, a U.S. Forest Service worker / agent who'd fought forest fires previously but who didn't see a problem with incinerating personal effects on the forest floor during a severe drought -- or so she claimed. The imminent threat of fire in Colorado was so extreme it had already attracted national media attention. Barton's employer had declared a priority-one absolute ban on open fires in Pike National Forest, a ban Barton was helping to enforce. Her widely publicized and maudlin account of causation -- that she was burning a letter from her estranged husband and "just wasn't thinking" -- severely strains credulity while gratuitously tugging on heartstrings. The circumstances of the case neatly eliminate any possibility of using physical evidence to verify her account. In other words it looks, sounds, and smells like a calculated lie cooked up by counsel.
The Hayman inferno rampaged through 137,760 acres of forest, causing thousands of people to flee their homes, eleven dozen of which were consumed by the blaze. Around 470 non-residential structures were also destroyed. Of the homes that survived, many were looted due to the prolonged evacuation. Damages climbed well into eight figures. Five firefighters died and six were injured as they tried to drive nonstop from Oregon to answer the need for able bodies. The driver fell asleep and their van left the road.
It does not end there. The Hayman blaze ultimately resolved as an environmental holocaust of industrial profiteering. Less than a year later the Forest Service declared a "timber salvage" clearcut of 17,500 acres on which trees had been killed outright, a logging free-for-all that couldn't have happened without the fire -- both environmentalists and Pike NF's management plan would have stood in its way. This is a good example of "timber salvage" policy giving foresters and logging companies a back door around both regulation and environmental activism. This in turn diminishes incentives for the Forest Service's traditional emphasis on fire-prevention and fire-control while introducing a clear incentive to start fires. Whether consciously or not, Terry Barton functioned as an agent of this brave new reality. As of this writing, Barton has been convicted of arson and sentenced to a 12-year prison term, but the sentence is under appeal and will probably be cut in half. It will be interesting to see how long Barton actually spends behind bars. As with the CIA's homicidally insane Cuban proxies during the '70s, her sentence may end up being strikingly short. Same game, different world-class Washington scum.
The U.S. government and mass media have never deemed the entire Hayman saga worthy of comment. Compare this with their treatment of the relatively trivial 1998 arson by radical environmentalists at Vail ski resort, now a banner example of "The Menace of Eco-Terrorism -- booga-booga!"
In the first case, arson supported corporate greed while setting off a wildly destructive runaway fire. In the second, corporate greed was deliberately assaulted by environmentalists who conscientiously contained the damage. Guess which one gets a stiffer penalty and relentless negative exposure? Which one is considered an ominous threat and thus redefined as "terrorism"? And the key question: a threat to whom?
Within each of these cases and across all of them, the schizoid portrayals of "terrorism" have a unifying theme: the preservation and expansion of elite power, wealth, and privilege, and to hell with any other party.
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article